The confluence of the Quinsam and Campbell rivers is shown on Tuesday. Low runoff on the Campbell River is forecasted to break records going back 60 years, according to BC Hydro. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Conditions ‘very dry’ across Vancouver Island despite rainfall

Low runoff on the Campbell River poised to break records going back 60 years

Conditions remain very dry across Vancouver Island, despite recent rainfall. That could mean record-breaking low runoff on the Campbell River.

Precipitation has been “very low” in the Campbell River watershed since February, said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.

And the current water supply forecast for the February to September period shows an expected runoff volume of 64 per cent the normal.

“If this forecast happens it would be the lowest for February to September total runoff in about 60 years of record,” Watson said.

He added that water levels in Upper Campbell and Buttle lakes “will be the second lowest in our record” for the summer period. The lowest level on record was in 2015, when snowpack was almost non-existent.

Weather variations create “bookends” or extremes, but global climate change “is pushing those bookends a little bit out on either side,” he said.

He added that BC Hydro is working with the University of Victoria and others to better understand how climate change will affect the watershed.

Conditions ‘very dry’ Island-wide

An online Drought Levels Map maintained by the B.C. government indicates that all of Vancouver Island is currently considered “very dry” as of July 4.

The province is updating those classifications this week. But it would take one of the rainiest months of July on record for overall drought conditions to change, said Ashlee Jollymore, a hydrologist with the provincial River Forecast Centre, which analyses the province’s snowpack, assesses seasonal water supply and flood risk, and predicts flows in B.C.’s rivers and streams.

“It’s kind of like a big bucket that needs to get filled, and it would have to really rain in order to fill it at this point,” she said.

Story continues below image.

A screenshot from the B.C. Drought Levels Map, updated July 4, indicates very dry conditions across Vancouver Island.

Current conditions on Vancouver Island are similar to those usually seen during later periods of the dry season, Jollymore said.

This follows a winter and spring marked by low precipitation. Conditions are approaching 2015 levels, one of the most extreme drought years on record.

“Even though we’ve had some precipitation over that last few weeks on the Island, we have a relatively large margin to actually continue to make up,” she said.

Rivers including the San Juan River, which empties into the ocean at Port Renfrew, are currently listed as “extremely dry” on a provincial government streamflow map.

That river is significant because the San Juan has no dams or other water management structures that would influence streamflow, Jollymore said.

Current levels on that river are among the lowest five per cent recorded since 1959, when measurements began.

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